Discomfort should not be your base line. For so many years, it was mine. Not by choice, of course. But since going gluten-free for celiac disease in 2007, my main goal has been to heal my gastrointestinal (GI) tract and to maintain its health.
That makes sense for someone with celiac disease where the body attacks its own tissue in the small intestine.
It also makes sense for everyone. That’s because almost 70% of the immune system’s lymphoid tissues reside in the gut. About 80% of our plasma cells (antibody cells) are in gut-associated lymph tissue.
So, if you want a healthy immune system, you need to start in the gut. Just like anything else, keeping your gut, and ultimately your immune system, healthy requires consistent action. There are no quick and easy fixes. Say that out loud to yourself: There are no quick and easy fixes.
In my experiences working with individuals helping them to regain gut health, lack of consistency is a significant factor for most people. After all, it isn’t easy to pass up treats we love, forego the foods everyone else is eating at a party, or to hold back when we’re on holiday or traveling.
However, it isn’t easy for our digestive system to keep up when we don’t pay attention to our gut health and maybe knowingly eat foods we know aren’t best for us.
In many cases, a short reward in the present means we pay tenfold in gut and immune health down the road.
Am I saying to live a life of restriction? Absolutely not! I believe in balance and moderation and having foods you love, even sweet treats, when you want. But from my experience in personally restoring my health using only food, I believe consistent, daily focus on gut health is key to overall health.
Here is my 7-point approach to achieving and maintaining good gut and immune health.
7 Daily Rituals that Promote Gut and Immune Health
1 – Daily probiotic
I take at least one of these probiotic capsules daily. Make sure the one you choose is free from gluten and any allergens you have. If you adhere to a plants-only diet, be sure your probiotic is vegan.
In addition to my probiotic capsule, I eat cultured foods like kimchi and sauerkraut daily as a side dish with at least one meal per day. There are other foods like apple cider vinegar (choose one with “the Mother”), kefir (available in dairy and coconut based versions), kombucha, etc.
I don’t like kefir or kombucha, so I just stick to the foods I enjoy that have these probiotic properties. Don’t ever feel pressured to eat or drink anything just because “everyone else” says you should.
2 – Ginger
If you’ve been here a while you already know ginger is a favorite of mine. I use it in many forms, like ginger tea, and I also chew two ginger tablets first thing every morning. I order these and literally keep a box of them in every room in the house, plus in my car and in my purse. If we meet in person, it is highly likely I will give you a box (after I ask you which meds you’re taking because ginger and certain meds like blood thinners do not mix!). That’s how strongly I believe in the power of daily ginger!
3 – Adequate hydration
Water. I am not ashamed to tell you I usually drink mine from a plastic bottle. I have tried so many reuseable bottles for water and to date, haven’t found one I love (suggestions welcome in comments if you have a reusable water bottle you really like!). I do my best to be a good steward of the planet, but if you see me out, you will either see a bottle in my hand, or in my bag.
Regardless of the vessel you prefer, be sure to hydrate daily, year round and adequately. Your cells require it! (It also helps reduce the visibility of fine lines!! Holla!)
4 – Plenty of plants
Leafy greens are my favorite base for just about everything I eat. I put about 2 big handfuls of my greens of choice into my bowl before adding anything else. I keep baby beet greens, baby kale, spinach, arugula and pea shoots on hand to rotate them around since some greens taste better with certain other foods. Plus, I get bored VERY easily.
I also make sure I eat a variety of color throughout the day. I usually buy two or three foods from each color group, then I always have variety on hand. For example:
Red: tomatoes, red peppers, strawberries
Orange: carrots, sweet potatoes, orange peppers, oranges
Yellow: yellow squash, winter squash, yellow carrots, yellow pepper
Green: loads of leafy greens, cucumber, avocado, kiwi, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus
Blue/Purple: eggplant, blueberries, purple cabbage, purple carrots, purple cauliflower
I vary what I buy with the season, but that gives you an idea of colorful foods you might add into your rotation. There are so many more you can add to those lists, so find what you love, make a master list and shop in season.
Don’t overlook the value in frozen veggies, too. I keep frozen organic fruit and veg in my freezer year round.
5 – Easy to digest foods
I try to consider the entire day’s food when I eat. For example, if I plan on beef for dinner, I tend to stay meat-free the rest of the day. It takes more energy to digest animal proteins like beef and pork, and even foods like lobster, so I keep that in mind when I plan my meals. I prefer my heaviest meal in the morning or mid-day, and enjoy lighter meals for dinner, if I eat at all (often I do not).
6 – Listen to your body
If you’re hungry, eat. If you eat a certain food and feel “off” afterward, take note. If you’re not hungry, even if it’s meal time, don’t eat. Wait until you feel hunger. I never eat by the clock. It can disrupt your entire system. Instead, I have some really wacky meal times and just go with it. :-)
If you listen, your body will tell you exactly what it needs and when. That means, for me, sometimes, my largest and most savory (dinner-like) meal of the day comes at 8AM! (See 5, above.)
7 – Move
I cannot stress this enough. Move your body every day. I’m not suggesting hours of cardio (never!!) or lifting weights six days per week (your joints may revolt!). But every day, take a walk (or two!), do yoga, simply stretch on and off throughout the day. Allow your body to do what it was created to do – one of those things is to move and flex and stretch.
My personal preferences are yoga and walking. I’ve been doing both on a regular schedule for over 25 years. I believe flexibility and protecting our joints are key to aging well (I could talk about this for hours!!).
So, there you have it! These are my top seven must-do-daily tips for consistent care of the gut! Remember, gut health equals immune health!
Do you do any (or all) of these? What works for you? Do you notice a difference when you get off track? Let’s discuss!